Thursday, November 28, 2019

Alternative For Prison Essays - Criminology, Penology, Criminal Law

Alternative For Prison AN ALTERNATIVE FOR PRISON America's prisons have been called graduate schools for crime. It stands to reason: Take a group of people, strip them of possessions and privacy, expose them to constant threats of violence, overcrowd their cell- block, deprive them of meaningful work, and the result is an embittered underclass more intent on getting even with society than contributing to it. Prisons take the nonviolent offender and make him live by violence. They take the nonviolent offender and make him a hardened killer. America has to wake up and realize that the current structure of our penal system is failing terribly. The government has to devise new ways to punish the guilty, and still manage to keep American citizens satisfied that our prison system is still effective. Americans pay a great deal for prisons to fail so badly. Like all big government solutions, they are expensive. In the course of my studies dealing with the criminal justice system, I have learned that the government spends approximately eighty-thousand dollars to build one cell, and $28,000 per year to keep a prisoner locked up. That's about the same as the cost of sending a student to Harvard. Because of overcrowding, it is estimated that more than ten-billion dollars in construction is needed to create sufficient space for just the current prison population. The plain truth is that the very nature of prison, no matter how humane society attempts to make it, produces an environment that is inevitably devastating to its residents. Even if their release is delayed by longer sentences, those residents inevitably return to damage the community, and we are paying top dollar to make this possible. Why should tax payers be forced to pay amounts to keep nonviolent criminals sitting in prison cells where they become bitter and more likely to repeat their offenses when they are released? Instead, why not put them to work outside prison where they could pay back the victims of their crimes? The government should initiate work programs; where the criminal is given a job and must relinquish his or her earnings to the victim of their crime until the mental and physical damages of their victims are sufficed. A court will determine how much money the criminal will have to pay for his restitution costs, and what job the criminal will have to do to pay back that restitution. The most obvious benefit of this approach is that it takes care of the victim, the forgotten person in the current system. Those who experience property crime deserve more than just the satisfaction of seeing the offender go to prison. Daniel Van Ness, president of Justice Fellowship, has said: All the legal systems which helped form western law emphasize the need for offenders to settle with victims. The offense was seen as primarily a violation against the victim. While the common welfare had been violated and the community therefore had an interest and responsibility in seeing that the wrong was addressed and the offender punished, the offense was not considered primarily a crime against the state as it is today. (76) Restitution offers the criminal a means to restore himself-to undergo a real change of character. Mere imprisonment cannot do this; nothing can destroy a man's soul more surely than living without useful work and purpose. Feodor Dostoevsky, a prisoner for ten years during czarist repression, wrote, If one wanted to crush, to annihilate a man utterly, to inflict on him the most terrible of need only give him work on a completely useless and irrational character (77). This is exactly what goes on in the make work approach of our prisons and it is one of the contributing factors to prison violence. To quote Jack Kemp, author of Crime and Punishment in Modern America: The idea that a burglar should return stolen goods, pay for damage to the house he broke into and pay his victims for the time lost from work to appear at a trial meets with universal support from the American people. There is, of course, a reason that the concept of restitution appeals to America's sense of justice. Restitution also provides an alternative to imprisonment for nonviolent criminals, reducing the need for taxpayers to continue building prisons. (54) Working with the purpose of paying back someone that has been wronged allows a criminal to understand and deal with the real consequences of his actions. Restitution would be far less expensive than the current system. Experience shows that the cost per prisoner can be as low as ten percent of that of incarceration, depending on the degree of supervision necessary. Removing nonviolent offenders from prison

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